Sharjah International Book Fair sets a new trail in Arab culture

Sunday 30/10/2016
A 2015 file picture of the Sharjah International Book Fair. (Credit: http://emiratescalendar.com)

Sharjah - The small UAE emirate of Sharjah has come a long way in the field of pub­lishing and promoting Arab literature and cul­ture since it had its first interna­tional book fair 34 years ago.
The 35th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair — now the third largest book fair in the world — is scheduled for November 2nd- 12th at the Sharjah Expo Centre. It will feature 1.5 million books, including 88,000 new titles, pro­duced by 1,420 publishing houses.
When the first Sharjah Interna­tional Book Fair opened on January 18th, 1982, there were only six pub­lishers and few visitors. Late Pal­estinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and other intellectuals and writers were present, reflecting the inten­tion on the part of the Sharjah Book Authority to be a major exponent and platform of regional culture.
An author himself, the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Muham­mad al-Qasimi, was the driving force behind the event.
“Culture is a winning bet,” not­ed Ahmed bin Rakkad al-Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Au­thority, invoking Sheikh Sultan’s quote that summarised the rise of the book fair from its humble be­ginnings.
Ameri and his team increased the profile of the Sharjah Interna­tional Book Fair (SIBF) by visiting other major book fairs and forging partnerships with international publishers and cultural institu­tions, including UNESCO, the Unit­ed Nations culture agency, this year’s guest of honour.
Working under the theme Read More as part of the Year of Reading being celebrated across the UAE, the event includes the third joint conference between the SIBF and the American Library Association, with the participation of more than 400 experts and librarians from academic, public, private and school libraries from around the world, Ameri said during a news conference.
“The logo of the book fair has been designed as a pen that can be used as a torch to illuminate the message of the UAE and Is­lamic civilisation to reach the out­side world,” he said, stressing that “from the outset, SIBF was con­ceived not merely as a large mar­ketplace for books but as a cultural event that brings together readers, publishers and intellectuals from the Arab world and from across the globe”.
Ameri said the UAE had the larg­est share of participating publish­ing houses at this year’s fair with 205, followed by Egypt with 163, Lebanon and India with 110 each, the United Kingdom with 79, Syria 66, the United States 63 and Saudi Arabia with 61.
The 35th SIBF edition is to fea­ture top writers and cultural per­sonalities among 228 specially invited guests. They include Cas­sandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; best-selling thriller author Eric Van Lustbader, who has written 11 Ja­son Bourne novels; novelist Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of I’ll Be There; Claudia Gray, author of the Star Wars series; and activist and author Sister Souljah.
Australian novelist and screen­writer Graeme Simsion, whose book The Rosie Project has sold more than 1 million copies, is also to attend.
SIBF has been setting attend­ance records each year with nearly 1.3 million visitors in 2015, Ameri noted.
He projected that the 35th edi­tion will be no different with a packed schedule of activities that cover the spectrum of arts, enter­tainment, education, culture and creativity.
Ameri said interactive fea­ture Read for Me utilises kiosks equipped with sound recording systems. Users can choose a book to read and their audio recordings will be sent to centres for disabled people and nursing homes.
The SIBF traditionally attracts thousands of families. Younger visitors can enjoy the Beijing Cir­cus, the educational musical show Sesame, Addams Family perfor­mances and the Digital Magician entertainment shows.
Sheikh Sultan has announced plans for a new exhibition centre — double the size of the current hall — to host the 2017 SIBF.

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